Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What do we care?

A couple of posts ago, I ended with the question "and what do we care?" This was in regard to whether and how much God has (supernaturally) intervened in the history of the universe to get the events to unfold according to His plan. For example, why in the end should we care whether God had to override the laws of physics to get the solar system to form where it is (ie, in the just-right location in the just-right galaxy) with the composition it has (ie, made of the just-right abundances of elements), etc, or whether the unfolding of the universe under the natural laws He set up at the beginning conspired to make this unlikely place form "naturally"?

I think this is certainly a good point to discuss. It isn't likely that we'll ever know how God did it. Although if we could show that the laws of physics were violated over and over, it would be a good apologetic. But philosophically, who can tell the difference between these two types of miraculous events? The formation of the moon was a miracle, in that it was highly unlikely. The advent of man was a miracle, in that it was an even less likely event. Do either violate the laws of physics? Even that's a difficult question to answer, as statistical thermodynamics, and even more so quantum mechanics, imply that anything can happen, even the most unlikely thing. It is within the laws of physics for all the air in the room you're sitting in to suddenly move to the other side of the room, instantly suffocating you. Its likelihood is on the order of 10^{-25} (or probably less), but it's not impossible. (I'll try to discuss this in a later post, because I'm not doing this justice here.)

Instead, I argue that the question we should be asking is therefore not whether the laws of physics are broken, but instead whether the unfolding of the history of the universe, including the history of life on planet earth, seems to bespeak the supernatural superintent of a creator, i.e., a mind. This is not just a question about probabilities. Rather, it is a question regarding whether the universe's history reflects the expressly-stated purposes of a creator. Sure, regarding evolution, we can try to go and test whether God specially intervened at points, but these would again be based on probability arguments. (For example, the likelihood that whales would evolve from a land mammal given their large body size, low fecundity, and long generation time, is extremely small.)

No, what I am arguing here is that the unfolding of history is following a divine plan. We live in a just right location at the just right time. The history of life on earth followed a just-right trajectory such that we could be here today. The evolution of stars and galaxies prior to the formation of our solar system occurred in a just-right way. In essence, these are all fine-tuning arguments, but they're subtly more than that, I think. It appears that the fine-tuning is no coincidence. It appears that it is following a plan.

And I think this argument demands to be developed further. For now, it's only in its infancy.